I was searching around for some good Mnemonics or acronyms or anything I could find to remember the 20 essential amino acids names and structures. I found an excellent article here relating the structures of all the amino acids with easy ways to remember them. I’m going to mention things I found helpful for me here.
For those amino acids having non-polar aliphatic side chains, it was suggested that GAVLIMP as a good acronymn. For pronounciations sake it could be like:
Put it together, it comes to GAVa-LIMP. Thing is, the structures of the amino acids increase in complexity as you go from Glycine to Proline with Glycine having a hydrogen atom for the “R”- group while Proline has a sort of “penta-cyclic” side chain. Another way I remember this is swapping the first letters of the GAVa and LIMP to give LAVa-GIMP. Those of you that use Linux, will know that GIMP is a famous photo editing cum drawing program. So I picture the programs mascot, Wilber glowing with lava/fire!
In trying to remember the names and structure it was always helpful to observe any unusual or outstanding features of the molecule. For ones that do have such features, it was easy to remember. Only those groups of amino acids that had very subtle differences in their structures to the eye need help. For example, for the three amino acids Lysine, Histidine and Arginine in the “positively charged side chain” group I made up, LArHis (Larhis) rhymes with Lorries.
Couple of other oustanding features I found helpful were that the polar uncharged side chain containing Asparagine and Glutamine were amide versions of the negatively charged amino acids: Aspartate and Glutamate repectively. And also Cysteine and Methionine were the ones that contain Sulphur.
A side note: On the page 77 of the Lehninger Biochemistry (5th ed) book, it said that the dimer of Cysteine is called Cystine as if when one says it out loud somebody is going to notice the difference! Isn’t there enough confusion already about similar sounding names?!
You can find the structures of amino acids drawn out nicely on page 75 of Lehninger Biochem book.